Deborah Washington (32) has been paddling for over 40 years. She has traveled here, there and everywhere but is perhaps most famous for her notoriously invigorating warm-ups. Debs perfected the art of joint mobilisation through her live demonstrations on the dance floors of Newcastle Town. Once (and this is a true story) I was in Madamme Koo’s and saw her stage dive into the unsuspecting arms (and upper body) of a 20-something boy. It was amazing. From that point on, Debs has been my hero.
Our pre-race warm-ups generally last longer than the races themselves, it has to be said. But it gets us in the kind of mood that a serpent needs to be in to fight other crews off the start. We have a good faff as well, but that’s all part of the plan so we tend to build in time for this. There’s a vigorous spotty dog or two, some half-hearted one-legged jacks and a quick trot round in a circle to kick things off. As things progress, Debs is yelling all sorts of instructions and we are generally running wild like a herd of confused sheep. Usually by the end of it, Lenny is swearing, someone has done themselves a mischief and no one has a clue what Keni just said to them about seating arrangements. But you see, this is the Serpent way. And without it, we wouldn’t win a damn thing. Hey, we went to the Nationals last year with a new crew and came third in the Open 500 m. So that was pretty satisfying. Watch and learn paddlers, watch and learn. Here Debs is in action at the Nationals last year: